Oil Spills

Oil Spills

An oil spill is an incident in which oil is spilt into certain locations causing environmental harm.

About Oil Spills

2010 Gulf Oil Spill: On April 20th, the Deepwater Horizon explosion occurred in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. Thousands of gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf, threatening businesses and wildlife along the coast, as well as marine life itself for hundreds of miles surrounding the spill. BP, the owner of the oil rig, estimates it will take months to get the gusher shut off. A containment cap was put in place on July 16, stopping the oil flow. On August 3, 2010 BP began testing a 'static kill' operation to shut down the well completely.

What is an Oil Spill:

An oil spill is the release of petroleum or petroleum based liquids into the environment due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term often refers to marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters, but oil spills happen frequently on land as well. The oil may be a variety of materials, including crude oil, refined petroleum products (such as gasoline or diesel fuel) or by-products, oily refuse or oil mixed in waste. Spills take months or even years to clean up.The impact on the environment can be catastrophic in many cases. Spills can turn waters into dead zones and kills birds who live on or near the waters. To lessen the impact these spills have, researchers have tried to find methods to remove the oil from the environment.

There are several different ways that oil spills are cleaned up. Each one has its limitations though and can cause additional environmental problems.

Bioremediation: use of microorganisms or biological agents to break down or remove oil.

Controlled burning: can effectively reduce the amount of oil in water, if done properly. But it can only be done in low wind, and can cause air pollution.

Dispersants: act as detergents, clustering around oil globules and allowing them to be carried away in the water.

Dredging: for oils dispersed with detergents and other oils denser than water which have sunk to the bottom.

Skimming: requires calm waters